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Create a Vibrant Blueprint in Photoshop
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a blueprint that is based off another image. The techniques used are simple and can be used on a lot of designs.
What We Will Be Creating
The tracing technique that we are going to be using to create the final result shown below can be used in a wide variety of designs.
To begin, create a new document in Photoshop (mine is 590x350px since the image I’m tracing is small). Then, open your image and place it on a new layer in the new document. Center the image using guides.
Document Size and Guides
Keep in mind that the blueprint will be larger than the image being traced. Also, if you want a background to show in the image, you need to create an even larger document to accommodate for the extra room.
An easy way to create guides at the center of your document is to make a selection of the entire document: Select > All (Ctrl+A). Then contract the selection by any amount: Select > Modify > Contract. Enable your rulers, View > Rulers (Ctrl+R), and click+hold to drag a guide out from the ruler. Drag the guide until it snaps in the middle of your selection.
Let’s create a background for the design. First lets select what colors to use. Since the image I’m going to be tracing is dark, I’m going to select dark colors that fit it.
Once the colors have been selected, grab the Gradient Tool (G) and, on the background layer, drag from the bottom left corner to the top right corner.
Since a blueprint is created so that a designer can get a feel for what they are going to make, selecting colors that would be in the final image will compliment the blueprint. Even though we are working backwards, the same rules apply.
Starting the Blueprint
Now that we have our background finished, lets start to work on the actual blueprint. Create a selection larger than the area you are going to trace, and create a gradient on a new layer, bottom left to top right, with the following colors:
Keep the image that you are going to be tracing above the background gradients, but when the tracing begins, keep it below any layers that have traces on them. This way, you can easily see what areas of the image you have traced so far.
Let’s add a stroke about 5px inside the blueprint. To do this, make a selection of the blue gradient you just created (Ctrl+Click the thumbnail of the layer), and make a contraction of 7px (Select > Modify > Contract). Then go to Edit > Stroke. Set the Width to 2px, the Color to white, and the Location to outside. If you don’t like how bright the white appears on the blueprint, you can decrease the layer opacity.
Since we wanted to create a stroke 5px into the blueprint, we contracted a selection of 7px. This is because after the stroke is applied, there will be 5px of space between the edge of the blueprint and the stroke.
Tracing the Image
To trace the image, we are going to be using the Pen Tool (P) set to Paths. To start, I’m going to trace the outside part of the cloud, and the Tutorial9 text since I want the traces around these to be thicker than the other traces.
To learn more about the Pen Tool, read the Pen Tool Basics Tutorial.
Grab your Brush Tool (B) and set it to a 2px hard brush. With the path still active, create a new layer, select your Pen Tool (P) and right click, and select Stroke Path. Select the Brush from the drop down menu and make sure Simulate Pressure is NOT checked. Press OK to finish, and then press the Escape button on your keyboard to get rid of the pen path.
Repeat the process on a new layer for the smaller text, and the inner parts of the cloud, but change your brush size to 1px, since we don’t want as much emphasis on these areas.
Lets create some guides on the blueprint that will show the dimensions for each area of the image. The best way to find a dimension of an area is to use the Marquee Tool and make a selection.
On a new layer, use a 1px Brush or Pencil and create lines perpendicular at the tops and sides of the area.
Next, use a 1px Pencil and create double sided arrows in between the guides.
Finally, create text in the middle of each arrow showing the size of that height or width, and delete part of the guide underneath it.
Guides and Arrows
You may want to lower the opacity of the guides and arrows so that they don’t distract from the main part of the blueprint, the outlines.
Rotating the blueprint will help add more depth and make it stand out more. Place all of your blueprint layers inside a New Group (Layer > New > Group). Then, with the group selected, go to Edit > Free Transform (Ctrl+T). Place your cursor outside of the top right box, and rotate the blueprint a few degrees.
Creating a Light Source
Instead of having a flat blueprint, lets create a light source to add depth to our design. Make a selection of the blue gradient layer you created. Grab your Gradient Tool (G), set it to Foreground to Transparent, and set white as your foreground color. On a new layer, hold shift and drag from the bottom left corner to approximately 1/3 or 1/4 of the selection. Then, set the opacity of the layer to around 25%.
Create a layer underneath your blueprint gradient and make a selection of the blueprint gradient. Fill the selection with black, and use Edit > Transform > Skew to drag the left side of the shadow down. Then apply a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with a Radius of 3.
For extra effect, I’m going to create a layer above my background and use a large soft brush to create a blue glow on the upper right area of the design, and set the layer to 50% opacity.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Tutorials are for learning techniques and sharpening your skills, don’t be afraid to experiment.
For reference, you’re welcome to grab the PSD File used in this tutorial!